The Catastrophes Continue

photo: bistro le bouquet

Facing renovation, my neighborhood café closed
on New Year's Eve.

With French Online Life

Paris:- Monday, 3. January 2000:- Last week, due to France's double catastrophes, this column was updated daily from Tuesday to Friday.

As of this morning, the wind storms have accounted for 88 deaths in France. The bodies of two killed by a fallen chimney were only discovered yesterday, in Orléans.

The state-owed electricity concern, EDF, said that 440,000 households remain without power this morning. These are not liable to receive power soon as they are more remote, or the electric lines require more than a quick fix.

EDF has spoken of having entire power distribution networks wiped out. Along with the householdsphoto: tree down in park without power, France Télécom has said that 400,000 of its subscribers are still cut off.

One of many trees uprooted in Paris' parks. In all, Paris lost 4000 trees.

According to reports, 300 million trees were felled; with 100 million of these being on state lands. TV-news has shown line repair crews tackling fallen lines first with chainsaws, to cut away the fallen trees that have knocked down the cables and the pylons that hold them up.

The fallen trees pose other problems. One is that there are so many of them, that there is nowhere near enough manpower to transform them into wood products before they rot on the ground.

Many of the downed trees will be turned into lumber, and this will depress their market value. But this is a relatively minor concern - a chancephoto: flooded vert galant of economics. Few houses in France are built primarily of wood.

Meanwhile, all the damaged houses have to be repaired. While this work is a boon to building tradesmen, there are not nearly enough to meet the demand.

Part of the Ile de la Cité underwater. Water has receeded since the photo was taken.

Insurance adjusters are out in force but they are outnumbered too. State aid is now quoted without specific numbers.

Some people are annoyed with politicians who are making flying visits, from warm offices in Paris and elsewhere. Daily they see EDF helicopters, risking their necks flying in low fog.

Schools were among buildings damaged, with about a 1000 in France affected. This will prolong the Christmas holidays for many students, which will pose problems for many of their working parents.

The Oil Spill

The underwater explorer, brought in to survey the hulk of the Erika for possible leakage, has gotten trapped by the wreck and its operators have been unable to regain control of it.

The tanks of the ship are believed to still contain 20,000 tons ofphoto: tree uprooted at marche heavy fuel. The cargo's owners, TotalFina, will be forced by France to recover the oil and the cost of doing this has been estimated at hundreds of millions of francs.

Another tree, near the first, in the place de la marché.

Three of the ship's tanks have released their contents while eight others remain full. Oil picked up from the beaches is being trucked to an Elf refinery where it is being stored. On Friday, 7000 tons had arrived.

Nobody seems to know what to do with this, as normal refining methods will not separate the oil for the sand in it.

Meanwhile armies of volunteers toil on the beaches to pick up the black gumbo as quickly as possible. Another small army is trying to rescue sea birds that have been covered in the oil.

First Strike of the Century

On RER line 'B,' Saturday, 1. January - on New Years Day.

French Life Online

After Picasso, Now Leonardo

Last year, the French car manufacturer Renault, took one of its nondescript family sedans and ballooned it up to be a mini-van-sedan. For people needing headroom and kid-room, it's great - even if it is sort of ugly. Renault can't help this.

Then, Peugeot decided this idea is a good thing, and ballooned up one of its same-size sedans to match Renault's, and to poke a stick in Renault's eye, called it 'Picasso' even if it is almost as ugly as Renault's version.

The Picasso Organization, objecting to having a mere mini-van-sedan called after its namesake, sued. After a certain - large - sum was agreed upon, the Picasso will roll out soon if it is not on the streets already.

There is doubt. I can't remember the Renault version's name, and they both look similar - so the 'Picasso' may or may not be on the streets of Paris.

It is certainly depicted in TV commercials - which show the factory's sneaky and probably unionized paint robots pin-striping the cars in wild abandon - until they spot a human supervisor coming. They immediately do a one-color respray and pin-stripe-sign the car 'Picasso,' with a replica of Picasso's signature. It is the only 'Picasso' thing about the car.

Meanwhile, a for-profit outfit named Leonardo Finance got some kind of court order in Nanterre, and eight cops to carry it out by forcibly entering the legal location of the French-American Association Leonardo, to seize all paper with the word 'Leonardo' on it.

Apparently Leonardo Finance is sore because Web search engines turn up the Association Leonardo as well as Leonardo Finance when 'Leonardo' is sought. A company named Transasia says it recently trademarkedphoto: flooded expressway every possible combination of the name 'Leonardo' in France.

Transasia is claiming one million dollars - not francs! - in damages, based on search engine results.

An exit ramp from the right bank expressway, which is under water.

My own Web search revealed that the non-profit Association Leonardo was founded 30 years ago as an 'International Journal' by Frank Malina, who is now dead. However, the association he founded is very much alive.

Today this association assists a world-wide network of artists, scientists and scholars. This network produces the scholarly journal 'Leonardo' - since 1968! - which is now published by the MIT Press in the USA.

The visible copyright line on the Association Leonardo Web site reads, 'ISAST/LEONARDO © 1997-98.'

The visible copyright line on the 'Leonardo Finance SA' Web site says that it was copyrighted in1998. In addition, Leonardo Finance also has an online thing called the 'Association Leonardo' which it also copyrighted in 1998 - perhaps illegally.

According to information on the Leonardo Finance Web site, Leonardo Finance itself was created in November 1995 - which makes it about 27 years younger than the original Association Leonardo. Leonardo Finance seems to be the brain-child of a bunch of venture-capitalists, to use the polite form of the expression.

The original Association Leonardo has set up a legal defense fund and you can get more information about it by writing to Roger Malina, who is Chairman of Leonardo/ISAST in San Francisco.

Shortie:

Slow Justice Department:- Last week radio France-Info carried the news that two French Internet service suppliers have been found not guilty of distributing 'kiddie porn' in the form of 'newsgroup' services provided by the two operators.

This case was originally featured in the Metropole article "We Are All Guilty" - French Internet Providers Go To Jail, with a follow-up in the same issue of 13. May 1996.

The director of Worldnet - still Sébastien Socchard - and the director of FranceNet, can now sleep peacefully. A week or two ago, a Munich court also dismissed similar charges against CompuServe in Bavaria, so I shouldn't single out France for turtle-speed justice.

'Internet Actu,' my prime source of French Web site tips, has taken advantage of the public holidays by taking a holiday last Thursday.

I was tipped to the 'Leonardo' story by Norbert Specker's post to Online-Europe, which bounced into my Inbox on Sunday. This newsletter comes from Steve Carlson in Budapest, who works even on holidays such as New Years Day - which Online-Europe's software has dated 'Sat, Jan 1, 19100.' The newsletter's 'subject' line - 'The Lights Still Work.'

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